Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes

Anything with chocolate in the name is sure to please in this house! This week's recipe was chosen by Clara of I Heart Food4Thought.

It seems lots of people had problems with the cupcakes being dry so I decided to use greek yoghurt instead of buttermilk and used a very rounded 1/2 cup of it for extra moisture. I also kept a really close eye on them while baking. They ended up need only 18.5 minutes instead of the 22 to 25 Dorie suggests.

While I toyed with the idea of Halloween style decorations I decided against it for a few reasons. Firstly that Halloween isn't recognised here at all so there aren't a whole lot of orange and black anything and secondly, I'm very anti food dye at the best of times but particularly now which limited my choices even further!

So I went with toasted flaked almonds both for flavour and crunch and it was perfect.

The taste test ...

Oh my god. These were anything but dry! I found them rich, fudgy and intensely chocolatey ... and that was before I added the glaze. Hubs loved them too, managing to eat 2 of them after a slice of pie and a slab of steamed pudding (both of which I will be posting about in the coming days)!

Next week another first for me - Rugelach

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Perfect Ginger Cookies

Being Australian we would call these biscuits not cookies but seeing it's not my recipe, cookies it is! These really caught my eye when I saw them on Priscilla's blog. I absolutely love anything with ginger and in fact have a big mug of ginger tea first thing every morning (and not just because i'm pregnant!).

I changed the recipe slightly, using golden syrup instead of molasses and adding a little baking powder to give them some lift. I also made them smaller, getting 16 out of the mix instead of 12.

The smell of these freshly out of the oven was intoxicating ... warm, sweet and spicy. I ate 3 while they were really to hot to handle and they were fabulous broken up over vanilla ice cream or just with a cup of ginger tea.

You can find the recipe at Priscilla's Baking Adventures. Yum!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins & an Announcement!

You may have noticed posting has become a little scarce of late. This has been partly the result of blog fatigue but mostly because there has been something much bigger and much more exciting happening ... i'm pregnant! N and I are thrilled to be able to announce that come April we will be parents.

I've been very lucky not to have had any morning sickness but my tastes have definitely changed and I haven't been cooking much lately, at least nothing blogworthy anyway. I'm planning on remedying that starting this week.

I had to sit out last week's TWD. Apologies to Gretchen of Canela & Comino, the biscotti looked great but I just didn't have the time or energy. I did however, get to this week's recipe for Pumpkin Muffins chosen by Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp.

Whenever I hear pumpkin in a recipe it sounds very American (with the exception of our very Australian pumpkin scones of course!). You can't buy canned pumpkin in Australia so I steamed and mashed my own.

I decided to follow the recipe exactly as I am one of the seemingly rare TWDers who actually like raisins! They came together easily but I generally prefer the melt and mix type muffins where you simply add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Creaming butter and sugar is what you do for cupcakes in my opinion.

The taste test ...
I really enjoyed these though I have to say they smelt divine while baking but weren't as fragrant in the mouth. Next time I would increase the spices considerably. I ate mine warm out of the oven with butter and marmalade and it was the perfect morning tea. Due to an unfortunate misunderstanding the rest of the batch got left out on the bench overnight and weren't edible the next day. Boo. N hates pumpkin so it was doubly disappointing because he was actually going to try these! Oh well. I'm sure there will be a next time.

Next week we have the scrumptious sounding Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jam Doughnut Muffins

Oh. My. God. I'm actually a little worried that I made these because now I know how easy it is I could make them all the time! I've had doughnuts on the brain for the past week or so and while I considered making some the whole vat of hot oil thing does scare me a little. Then I remembered these little beauties that I bookmarked months ago and voila ... doughnuts! Well doughnut muffins to be exact but the end result is truly awesome.

The recipe says it makes 6 and I made 6 jumbo sized ones. It is telling that I ate a whole one but take my advice and make them smaller ... your hips will thank you!

Jam Doughnut Muffins
recipe from Taste.com.au

300g (2 cups) self-raising flour
2/3 cup caster sugar, plus 1/3 cup extra to coat
80ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil (I used melted butter)
1 large egg
175ml buttermilk (I made my own with 1 tbs apple cider vinegar topped up with milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract (I just realised now that I forgot to add this!)
6 tsp good-quality strawberry jam
100g unsalted butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180°C and grease a 6-hole muffin pan. Sift the flour into a medium bowl, then add a pinch of salt and the caster sugar.

In a jug, combine the vegetable oil, egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Add to the dry mixture and stir to only just combine.

Place a spoonful of the mixture in each muffin hole and make an indent in the centre. Fill each indent with a generous 1/2 teaspoon of strawberry jam. (I misjudged slightly so my jam ended up in the bottom third of the mix). Cover the jam with the remaining muffin mixture and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, melt the butter. Combine the extra sugar and the cinnamon in a large bowl. When the muffins are cool enough to handle, brush each muffin with the melted butter, then roll in the cinnamon sugar.

Serve while still a little warm (the jam in the middle really holds its heat so watch out!)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake

This week's recipe was chosen by Tammy of Wee Treats by Tammy and what a great choice! Considering how decadent Dorie's picture looked I decided we didn't need a whole cake, so I thirded the recipe and made 3 muffin sized cakes.

The cake mix worked perfectly. I lined a jumbo muffin pan and baked them for 25 minutes at 150 deg C. The texture was probably more cake than brownie but very soft, moist and intensely chocolaty. Maybe a few minutes less would have given a more fudge-like middle but I was totally happy with these.

The taste test ...

The cake was delicious! I will definitely be making this again. The muffin size works really well and I love doing individual serves. My only issue was with the caramel.

It took about 15 minutes to get a beautifully clear, deep amber toffee (I was tempted to make toffee apples at this stage) but when I added the cream and butter it all went wrong. The caramel went really milky and cloudy looking and cystalised as it cooled. The end result looks dull and uninviting. It tasted nice but a bit sugary rather than smooth as I had envisinged. While I did halve the recipe I've never had any trouble working with sugar before.

So if anyone out there can tell me where I went wrong I would be very grateful! My taste testers didn't care but the perfectionist in me really wants to make it, well ... perfect!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The price of gluttony is $12.95

This is all that remains of a bag of mini Reese's. Despite my best intentions we ate the entire bag in 24 hours!

A few years ago (actually 7 but it makes me sound old) I spent a summer at Marquette University in Milwaukee finishing off my law degree plus some extra time travelling around. The food was definitely a highlight ... real bagels in New York, deep dish pizza in Chicago, frozen custard in Wisconsin. Yum!

But the real highlight for me was the discovery of these addictive little chocolate and peanut butter treats. I ate them by the bagful. The problem is here in Australia they are obviously imported and considered 'gourmet'. While we were out shopping yesterday I spotted a bag in the window of a lolly shop and had to have them despite the fact it was $12.95 for a tiny 340g (12oz) bag. Aaah!

On the way out the guy told he was about to get much bigger bags in. Bags that would be much better value. Double aaah! For the sake of my thighs we will not be going back there anytime soon. *sigh*

On a happier note Nigella has a copycat recipe that is the closest thing to Reese's I've tasted. We'll be making them again for Christmas this year (and giving most of it away). Bring on Christmas!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Anzac Biscuits in October

So Anzac biscuits are normally baked in April on Anzac day to commemorate the Australian and New Zealand troops landing at Gallipoli in 1915. I always make them then but really they are fantastic to make any time.

Part of their appeal is they they contain ingredients that I always have in the pantry and can be whipped up at a moment's notice.

There is a lot of debate as to how they should end up - soft or hard, chewy or crunchy. Personally I go for crunchy on the outside and slightly chewy in the middle. I mounded these up a bit and didn't cook them for quite as long as I normally would. But follow the instructions and you will get thinner biscuits perfect for ice-cream sandwiches!

Anzac Biscuits
Recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly Original Cookbook, 1977, p187

1 cup traditional rolled oats (not instant)
3/4 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar (I like raw sugar for these)
1 1/2 ts bicarb soda
2 tbs boiling water
125 g butter
1 tbs golden syrup

Combine oats, sifted flour (I generally don't bother sifting), sugar and coconut. Melt the butter and golden syrup together over a gentle heat. Mix bicarb with boiling water and add to the the butter mixture. It will froth up like a crazy science experiment. Stir this mix into the dry ingredients.

Spoon dessertspoonfuls of mixture onto greased oven trays, allowing room for them to spread.

Bake at approx 150 deg C for 20 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown. They will be very soft straight out of the oven so don't try to move them until they are cool.

Makes approx 30.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Classic Crème Brûlée

To say I was excited about this week's recipe is an understatement. Crème brûlée is one of my favourite desserts to order when we eat out and when done well, takes custard to a whole new level.

I have to say I was sceptical about the cooking method. I'm used to baked custards cooked at a higher temp in a water bath. I was also thrown by just how low the temperature was. 200F sounds low but when you convert it to celsius it's almost ridiculous!

Anyhoo, I baked my 4 little ramekins at just under 100 deg C but it took much, much longer than stated to set. After 60 minutes they were still liquid. I ended up giving them 1 hr 40 minutes and then left them in the switched off oven with the door open to cool down to room temperature.

The taste test ...

Sublime. This may be the best tasting baked custard I have ever had. The slow cooking seems to do amazing things for the texture. It was rich, lucsious and incredibly silky. Each serve looked really small but I couldn't have eaten a bigger one! We borrowed a blow torch to do the tops and it worked really well. I think we may end up buying one!

A big thank you to Mari of Mevrouw Cupcake for this week's choice. Now that I know how easy it is I will definitely be making these again, probably using some of the playing around ideas.

Next week - Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers September - Lavosh Crackers with Pesto Rossi

Yay for a savoury DB challenge! I know this is only my second challenge but I was delighted to be making something savoury this month. I was equally delighted to have an 'alternative' challenge. I've had lots of problems with food allergies over the years and I know how frustrating it can be trying to find something you can eat at parties etc. This was a two-part challenge - first to make Lavosh crackers (either regular or gluten-free) and then to create a vegan dip to go with the crackers, and that was a little trickier!

I decided not to go for a gluten-free cracker here purely because I didn't have the ingredients. The regular flour recipe was an absolute breeze. I even kneaded it by hand (usually I cheat and use the dough hook in my mixer) and it took a full 15 minutes to meet the stretch and windowpane tests.

I used my pasta maker to roll out the dough which allowed me to get a really even end result. I took it down to the second thinnest setting which made it a little easier to manage, then used a pizza cutter to make rectangles. The only frustrating part was having to do so many batches and waiting for the tray to cool down in between.

I decided to keep them pretty plain, just sprinkling the tops with sesame seeds and some sea salt, as the dip I chose has a bit of kick. I don't make dips very often and it was quite difficult to find something that was actually vegan (meaning no animal products whatsoever) rather than just vegetarian. In the end I just decided to do Pesto Rossi, which means red pesto in Italian. It is actually a pasta topping but I though it would work well with the crackers.

Pesto Rossi
(this is not my recipe but I can't remember where I got it from)

3 chargrilled red capsicum (roasted using whatever method works for you)
3 slow roasted roma tomatoes (again everyone has their own way of doing this)
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin oilive oil
1/4 cup ground hazelnuts

Blitz all ingredients in a food processor and serve. It really is that easy! To make a non-vegan variety you can add a 250g block of cream cheese into the mixer and process until smooth. This is great as a dip or over pasta.

All the taste testers absolutely loved this and everyone wanted the recipe!

A big thank you to Natalie from Gluten A Go Go and Shel of Musings From the Fishbowl for this month's challenge. I really enjoyed it and will definitely be making these crackers again!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Banana Buttermilk Muffins

I love muffins. When I used to work in the city my bus stop was right next to a Muffin Break and believe me there is nothing more tempting at the end of a horrible day than a big fat muffin! These days I don't make them very often but after today's taste test that might change. I couldn't find a recipe that exactly suited the ingredients and quantities I had so I made up my own. The combination of raw and brown sugars gives a rich caramel colour and flavour that complements the banana perfectly. Next time I plan on making them with a proper streusel topping but for a shortcut, the extra brown sugar makes a lovely crunchy top.

Banana Buttermilk Muffins

A food. baby original

2 cups plain flour
3 ts baking powder
1 ts bicarb soda
pinch of salt
3 ts cinnamon
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
125g butter, melted
1 1/2 very ripe bananas, mashed
approx 1/3 cup brown sugar, extra

Preheat oven to 200 deg. Line a 12 cup muffin tray with paper liners.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt, raw sugar and brown sugar. Stir to combine. In a small bowl combine the buttermilk, egg and melted butter and whisk to combine.

Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and stir with a fork a few times. Then add the mashed banana and continue to stir until it only just comes together. Be careful not to overmix!

Spoon the mixture in the prepared trays. I used jumbo trays and filled each cup just barely halfway. Using the extra brown sugar, sprinkle a little (or a lot!) on top of each muffin.

Bake at 200 deg for 10 mins then swap the trays if you need to and bake for a further 10 minutes at 180 deg.

Cool in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a rack.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Dimply Plum Cake

I was absolutely thrilled with this week's pick. This is exactly the type of recipe I love to make and the type of cake I love to eat! I'm also a big fan of fruity desserts and cakes in general so a big thank you to Michelle of Bake-en who chose Dorie's Dimply Plum Cake!

Unfortunately it's not stone fruit season here in Australia so I had to make do with tinned plums instead. They worked surprisingly well but were a little mushier than I had hoped.

The taste test ...

Fabulous! I baked mine the day before we were going to eat it. This type of cake tends to keep well and actually taste better the next day anyway. It was moist and buttery and gently flavoured with orange and cardamom. I can see myself making this cake often, just switching around the fruits and flavourings. I will definitely be trying it with fresh fruit come Christmas time. I think nectarines would be brilliant.

We had this as part of an afternoon tea for family and it got a big thumbs up from all the tasters. The other treats were chicken sandwiches (with the crusts cut off because otherwise it's not proper afternoon tea food just lunch!), an apple and cinnamon bun and this month's daring bakers challenge which I will be posting about next weekend. Overall a wonderful spread!

Next week - I'm so excited I can hardly type! - Creme brulee!!!
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